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How to Treat Tennis and Golf Elbow

With golf and tennis season in full swing, elbow ache can be a big pain. Heal those strained tendons and get back to your game with these practical tips.

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The elbow can be a funny tendon. It’s designed to have maximum flexbility but this also means it’s prone to injuries. Luckily, when it comes to elbow problems, some well-guided TLC can go a long way. 

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The ‘ow’ in elbow

Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) affects the tendon on the outer side of the elbow. Golfer’s elbow (medial epicondylitis) is an inflammation of the tendon on the inner side of the elbow. Both tendons are involved in wrist movements – bending the wrist back in the case of the lateral tendon and down in the case of the medial tendon.

Tennis elbow: This condition can occur when playing tennis, perhaps as a result of overuse or hitting a ball awkwardly, but it is more common during other activities that require repeated gripping and twisting movements such as plastering and painting, or as a result of a sudden strain caused by lifting. Tennis elbow tends to develop between the ages of 40 and 60 as tendons grow less flexible.

Golfer’s elbow: This condition may be caused by an acute injury or by repeated strains sustained when playing golf, but it is more commonly associated with other activities such as racquet sports. Like tennis elbow it can develop for no obvious reason.

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Symptoms to Watch

The affected area will be tender and there may be some mild swelling. Wrist and elbow movements can cause the pain to worsen. In tennis elbow the pain is felt on the bony bump on the outer side of the elbow. The pain of golfer’s elbow is felt on the inside of the elbow. In both conditions pain may persist when at rest and, if severe, can cause problems sleeping.

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Treatment Options

– To prevent the inflammation from getting any worse it is important to avoid repetitive movements of the wrist and elbow as well as any other movements that seem to increase the pain.

– It may help to wrap it in an elastic bandage.

– If the condition is brought on by a particular sporting activity it is important to check your technique.

– A heat pack or wrapped hot-water bottle held against the elbow can provide relief; alternatively a wrapped ice pack can be applied twice a day for 5-10 minutes.

– Other options for relieving pain and inflammation include oral or gel-based non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, physiotherapy, ultrasound and TENS (transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation.) 

– If the pain is not relieved by any of these measures, a corticosteroid injection may be given directly into inflammatories, heat and cold treatment or steroid injections will also reduce inflammation.

Once the swelling has gone down, exercises to strengthen the muscles around the affected area will help to prevent recurrence. Repetitive movement or overuse of the tendon should be avoided.

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